8 Interesting Facts About William Dampier

English explorer, William Dampier was a writer, voyager, buccaneer, privateer, ornithologist, botanist and commander of the Royal Navy. His expeditions brought him to five of the seven continents, making him a famous circumnavigator. Here are 8 interesting facts about William Dampier.

1. Personal Facts

Not much has been written about his early life but according to facts, he was baptized on September 5, 1651 and was born on that year at Hymerford House in East Coker, Somerset, England. He studied Latin and arithmetic and was the second child of George and Ann Dampier. Orphaned at the young age of seven, Dampier became an apprentice to a shipmaster which brought him to different parts of world, from France to Newfoundland. He also became a buccaneer, along with other pirates who attacked Spanish ships in the Caribbean. His voyages also included crossing the Pacific to the Philippines and Spice Islands. It was in 1691 when he finished his first circumnavigation, which was followed with two more.

2. Firsts About Dampier

Of the firsts about the maritime explorer, he was the first person to ever circumnavigate the world not once but three times. He was also the first English best-selling travel wordsmith and the first Englishman to explore and map parts of New Guinea and Australia (New Holland) until he was stranded in the Bay of Bengal before he returned to England with no money left.

3. On English Word Origins

Dampier is said to have introduced hundreds of English words from being an explorer and buccaneer. The list includes barbecue, cashew, catamaran, avocado, chopsticks and breadfruit.

4. Famous Book

Before his fame, he wrote a book, A New Voyage Round the World (1697), which earned him the title, naturalist and explorer, since he documented his seafaring adventure and natural history. He also penned the Voyages and Descriptions with included “A Discourse of Trade-Winds, Breezes, Storms, Tides, and Currents”, which included maps he drew from his own voyages.

5. He Became a Royal Navy Ship Commander

The Royal Society and the British Admiralty was impressed and the later offered him to become a commander of the Royal Navy Ship in an expedition which brought him to the northwest coast of Australia. He was given a fifth-rate warship with 50 men, called the Roebuck. His Roebuck voyage was the forerunner of the expeditions of James Cook, Philip Carteret and Samuel Wallis.

6. Conflicts Encountered

Being a non-Navy man, Dampier did not see eye to eye with some of the sailors and doubts about the safety of the ship were raised. And during his encounter with the Aborigines in Australia, rumors surfaced that he gunned down a man. It was also during this time that he came across menacing natives.

7. Daniel Dafoe Inspiration

It is said that author Daniel Dafoe got his inspiration for the famous book Robinson Crusoe from Dampier when the latter saved Alexander Selkirk during his voyage to Australia.

8. End of Glory Days

When he returned from the Roebuck voyage, he was charged with cruelty and found guilty. For his punishment, he was discharged from the Royal Navy from killing John Norwood. He died in 1715.

Despite his being a buccaneer and his being discharged from the Royal Navy, William Dampier still remains to be famous for his contributions in Marine Engineering. He is also known for his journals detailing about flora and fauna in his travels as well as the specimens he brought back from his voyages, some of which still belong in museum collections.

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